City staff recommend saying so long to Ottawa's royal swans

It's time for Ottawa's royal swans to move on because there's nowhere for them to stay in the city over the winter, according to city staff.

Swans are descendants of 6 pairs of mute swans given to the city by Queen Elizabeth in 1967

A city report says the population of Ottawa's royal swans has been dwindling and it would be best not to stress them by transporting them back and forth to their winter habitat in Quebec. (CBC)


  • The community and protective services committee voted June 20 to relocate the swans.
  • City council gave final approval June 26. Coun. Theresa Kavanagh and Shawn Menard voted against.

It's time for Ottawa's royal swans to move on because there's nowhere for them to stay in the city over the winter, according to city staff.

A staff report to be considered at the June 20 meeting of the city's community and protective services committee recommends the remaining members of the flock be relocated permanently to their winter home, Parc Safari near Montreal. 

The royal swans are descendants of the six mute swans Queen Elizabeth gave the city for Canada's centennial in 1967, save for one descendant of Australian black swans that were acquired in a swap with the Montreal Zoo.

For five decades, the swans graced the Rideau River. However, their numbers have dwindled as the swans grew older and predators nabbed their eggs, according to the staff report.

Laila Gibbons, director of roads and parking services, says transporting the swans to and from their winter home at Parc Safari caused stress for them each year. 0:36

The report said there are only four mute swans left and 20 are needed for a viable flock.

The main reason to permanently give away the swans, according to city staff, is to avoid the stress of transporting them back and forth, as well as provide them constant monitoring at Parc Safari.

The arrangement with Parc Safari was made in 2015 after the city deemed it necessary to find a temporary home for the swans. The cramped city facility had been nicknamed 'Swantanomo Bay' by critics

Staff said the city will save $600,000 by not building a new swan facility.

Then mayor Donald Reid announced the arrival of the royal swans, a gift from Queen Elizabeth, shortly before the centennial celebrations in 1967. 1:10

'Supreme insult to the Queen'

Clarence Dungey, who has advocated for the city to take care of the swans in the past, said he plans to speak in favour of the city retaining the flock when the report is presented.

"I think it's a supreme insult to the Queen, that she took the time to gift the swans to the capital city of Canada only to now face the reality that the city itself is going to involve themselves in a re-gifting procedure," Dungey said.

"What this says to me is, well, we promised the Queen we'd take care of it, but now we're not!"

The city released 11 royal swans onto the Rideau River on Thursday morning. The Mute (white) swans are direct descendants of the swans Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II gifted to Ottawa to commemorate Canada’s centennial in 1967. The Australian Black swans are descendants of a pair obtained in 1974. 1:16

Mayor Jim Watson once joked on Ottawa Morning for April Fool's Day that the city would re-gift the swans to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for their wedding. 

Watson is now supporting the staff recommendation, according to his spokesperson, who said the mayor has expressed concern for the swans' well-being after several of them were attacked and killed by other wildlife last year.

About the Author

Matthew Kupfer

CBC Reporter

Matthew Kupfer has been a reporter and producer at CBC News since 2012. He can be reached at and on Twitter @matthewkupfer


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